Anger is unavoidable. When it manifests in intimate relationships, the outcome can be less than rewarding. But in a recent article, Utah family and marriage therapist Jonathan Decker gives some valuable tips on how to take an angry situation and turn it into one that can bring partners closer together. Decker says the first step in diffusing anger is to recognize angry feelings before they surface. Every person has physical and physiological warning signs that anger is imminent, such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, or tense muscles. These subtle and very real cues let us know that our anger is rising and we need to take a moment to calm down before we let our anger take over.
Decker suggests using calming strategies like going for a walk, taking a hot bath or shower, or listening to some favorite music to calm down. Sometimes those options are not available, of course. One of the best ways to physically settle down is to practice breathing very slowly and deeply. This will lower the heart rate and decrease stress, allowing emotions to be processed more rationally. This leads us to the next step, which involves looking past the anger to the real source of our emotional upset. Anger disguises our true emotions, like fear, worry, sadness, hurt, or shame. Understanding what is really going on will allow us to reveal that to our partner. “Trust them with your vulnerable emotion instead of manipulating them with anger,” Decker says. This draws partners closer rather than pushing them away.
Decker also recommends trying to put ourselves in our partner’s position. We may react with anger when our partner does something that we wouldn’t do. But by trying to see things from his or her point of view, we can decrease our anger and our partner’s defensiveness. Everyone wants to be loved, understood, and accepted. When we turn to our loved ones and tell them we are trying to understand their situation, rather than condemning them for their behavior, their walls come down and respectful communication can occur. Decker knows that these steps may be difficult at first, but with enough practice, they can become habit and help minimize angry conflicts in relationships.
Decker, Jonathan. Fight less, connect more. (n.d.): n. pag. St. George Magazine. Gannett, 4 Oct. 2012. Web. 8 Oct. 2012. http://www.thespectrum.com/article/20121004/stgeorgemagazine/310040014
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